I got married young. Back then, I would have never admitted I was young—back then I was 21 and had it figured out. Back then is nothing like now. Now it’s ten years later, I’m single, I’m dating, I’m changing my career, and nothing is figured out.
Does anyone have it figured out?
The driving conversation we all seem to be having it what we are missing. What we lost of ourselves along the way. Take math. I used to love it. I used to calculate parabolic equations with abandon and be able to write papers on Shakespeare as well. We all did, in high school. That was when you could do everything, and were supposed to do everything. But that came college, majors, specializations, adulthood. Does that mean I can’t do math anymore? I hope not. But I miss it. I miss the simplicity of looking at a formula and getting to an answer. I miss the quantification of it. But I had to let it go to pursue other things. Because at some point you can’t seem to take it all with you.
I’m traveling around the country right now talking to people from South Beach to Portland about what they wish they’d held onto. It’s adventure, math, broomball, international awareness, travel, stability. We meet each other across tables and see what we left in the opposite reflection across the shellac.
I’ve been in my line of work for over a decade, but I don’t feel old enough to have done anything for a decade. (And we’re not even going to talk about the fact that I was with a man who is no longer a part of my life for a similar decade). It seems that it is right at this moment that we all look around and say, “What the hell have I done to my life without my knowing it. What have I given up?” And it seems if we don’t claim it now that we might never get it back.
It’s that icky feeling we get when we realize that it’s not all going to be slick. I think I wanted slick, back at 21 when I walked down a dirt aisle on a mountain overlook to join my adult life in the form of marriage. I wanted everything to be packaged as one thing, because without knowing it, I had decided that this would make it all easier. If life had one direction, than I could live it without always wondering what else was out there, what else I should be doing, what else I should know.
After my parents told me I could do anything (see Free Time below) they would often have to tell me, five days later post meltdown, that I was not supposed to try and do everything all at once. I feel I want to say the same to myself, and others, right now.
What if things are not lost, but are merely temporarily displaced? What if they adventure drive that you had at 23, when you hitchhiked through Malaysia, is still there, but taking a break? What if it doesn’t all have to be firing at the same time?
Right before I got married young I wanted to save the world. I would go to bookstores every four months and stock up on political titles I thought would be good to have read. I plodded through Kissinger’s Diplomacy at age 18. It was not pretty. I abandoned this path, or so it seemed. Because I didn’t absorb any of it, because I had to make room for my other life. But yesterday I spent four hours online looking at the political structure of Ethiopia and how it relates to US foreign policy. The words that would not have stuck three years ago suddenly held traction in my mind. And this made me realize that perhaps I could trust that the things I want, and the things I wanted, might merge again.